Brain damage found in 20% of people who died from coronavirus
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Brain damage found in 20% of people who died from coronavirus

The Erasmus hospital, where the research took place. Credit: Belga

A neuroimaging study showed brain damage in 20% of patients who died from coronavirus, Erasmus Hospital said Wednesday.

Researchers used MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) to observe the brains of patients who died as a result of this virus.

About 20% of them had damage in the form of haemorrhages (bleeding in the surrounding tissue) or oedema (swelling), mainly affecting the posterior parts of the brain. This damage appears related in particular to the coronavirus directly attacking blood vessels in the brain.

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However, according to the researchers, there is no link between these brain injuries and the patients’ respiratory problems. “Our study found no abnormalities in the brain stem regions where the breathing nerve centres are located,” said Xavier De Tiège, a neurologist at the Erasmus hospital.

“It therefore does not support the hypothesis of a dysfunction of the respiratory centres following a cerebral dissemination of the coronavirus,” he said, meaning that the breathing problems do not come from the damage the virus does to the brain.

On the other hand, the researchers also noted asymmetries of the olfactory bulbs (which are responsible for our sense of smell) in 20% of the brains examined.

“This observation could explain the loss of the olfaction frequently presented by patients suffering from Covid-19,” De Tiège said.

Jason Spinks
The Brussels Times

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